New research from Yale oceanographers has revealed a build-up of heat in the deeper levels of the Arctic Ocean that may trigger a massive melting of the sea ice above.
The research team analysed temperature data on the Canada Basin taken over the last 30 years, and found that the amount of heat in the warmest part of the water had effectively doubled in the period 1987 to 2017.
This 30-year doubling (growth rate of between 2-3% per annum) coincides with the Great Acceleration of the impact of so many human activities at a planetary scale. In this case it is the hydrosphere and the cryosphere that are being impacted, but the connection to what is happening to the global atmosphere is obvious. The parallel increases in greenhouse gas emissions arising from fossil fuel use has many effects, just as has the massive addition of plastics to the natural environment and many other synthetic chemicals . As humans strive for wealth and accelerated consumption of technologically created goods and services, many UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES tend to follow. A small number of scientists reveal these but the rush for ‘development’ understood as ever-increasing GDP growth, continues to accelerate as human population adds an extra 1 billion humans to an overloaded planet in the next 14 or so years.
Coastal erosion in the Arctic a new concern – report on new research.
This video is targeted on secondary school learners to encourage debate about the concept of homo economicus at the core of the model of classical economics. Ego-driven competition and a price for everything is the implied assumption of human nature behind homo economicus which overlooks other aspects of humanity such as altruism, cooperation and things that cannot be priced. Presented in the form of puppets as rap lyrics, the creative video tries to move thinking about human nature from selfish ME to a collective concern about WE. It is 6 minutes long.
Here is the full UNFCCC news release.
I find it hard to share the optimism in this press release about the progress made towards the Paris Climate Agreement goals. December in nearby Katowice the centre of Polish coal production, will see yet another attempt to get agreement on limiting CO2 emissions that nee to be negative by 2015 if the targets are to be met for curbing global warming and all associated effects.
Against the backdrop of severe and record heatwaves, bushfires, droughts and floods across the world, governments are convening a supplementary meeting in Bangkok to prepare the implementation guidelines of the Paris Climate Change Agreement. The guidelines are needed to make the Paris Agreement work fairly and transparently for all.
Following a two-year negotiation process, the implementation guidelines are set to be adopted at the annual climate conference, COP24, to be held in Katowice, Poland in December.
While the talks have made modest progress, the Bangkok meeting is the last opportunity before COP24 to accelerate negotiations.
About the UNFCCC
With 197 Parties, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has near universal membership and is the parent treaty of the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement. The main aim of the Paris Agreement is to keep a global average temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius and to drive efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The UNFCCC is also the parent treaty of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The ultimate objective of all agreements under the UNFCCC is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that will prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system, in a time frame which allows ecosystems to adapt naturally and enables sustainable development.
See also: http://unfccc.int
This article from BioScience updates a warning given in 1992 by 1700 scientist about the trajectories leading to environmental destruction. This updated warning was endorsed by 15000 scientists when published in December 2017. Here are the opening paragraphs:
Twenty-five years ago, the Union of Concerned Scientists and more than 1700 independent scientists, including the majority of living Nobel laureates in the sciences, penned the 1992 “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity” (see supplemental file S1). These concerned professionals called on humankind to curtail environmental destruction and cautioned that “a great change in our stewardship of the Earth and the life on it is required, if vast human misery is to be avoided.” In their manifesto, they showed that humans were on a collision course with the natural world. They expressed concern about current, impending, or potential damage on planet Earth involving ozone depletion, freshwater availability, marine life depletion, ocean dead zones, forest loss, biodiversity destruction, climate change, and continued human population growth. They proclaimed that fundamental changes were urgently needed to avoid the consequences our present course would bring.
The authors of the 1992 declaration feared that humanity was pushing Earth’s ecosystems beyond their capacities to support the web of life. They described how we are fast approaching many of the limits of what the biosphere can tolerate without substantial and irreversible harm. The scientists pleaded that we stabilize the human population, describing how our large numbers—swelled by another 2 billion people since 1992, a 35 percent increase—exert stresses on Earth that can overwhelm other efforts to realize a sustainable future (Crist et al. 2017). They implored that we cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and phase out fossil fuels, reduce deforestation, and reverse the trend of collapsing biodiversity.
On the twenty-fifth anniversary of their call, we look back at their warning and evaluate the human response by exploring available time-series data. Since 1992, with the exception of stabilizing the stratospheric ozone layer, humanity has failed to make sufficient progress in generally solving these foreseen environmental challenges, and alarmingly, most of them are getting far worse (figure 1, file S1). Especially troubling is the current trajectory of potentially catastrophic climate change due to rising GHGs from burning fossil fuels (Hansen et al. 2013), deforestation (Keenan et al. 2015), and agricultural production—particularly from farming ruminants for meat consumption (Ripple et al. 2014). Moreover, we have unleashed a mass extinction event, the sixth in roughly 540 million years, wherein many current life forms could be annihilated or at least committed to extinction by the end of this century.
Wise Earth is the home of Wise Ape (Homo Sapiens) who now has the god-like power (Homo Deus) that has made this conscious ape a new geological force that has created the Anthropocene Epoch. This article is with an astro-biologist who coined the phrase TERRA SAPIENCE to advocate noting less than a new evolutionary transition in which homo sapiens begins to act by the rules of the Wise Earth.
learning to gracefully integrate our technological activities into the cyclic workings of the planet so that we are working with, and not against, Earth systems. For this we will need a reinvention of the human race and our ways of being in the world.
a more globally conscious humanity. It may be that a good Anthropocene, if one is to arise or be created, will come after some period of catastrophe. The 21st century is a very dangerous time for humanity. But if you look several hundred years or 1000 years in the future, it’s possible we will have learned some lessons, maybe some of them the hard way, and evolved toward a planetary scale existence. There’s a growing ability to perceive the world globally, and there is certainly the possibility of nonlinear change in human dynamics, as well as nonlinear change in global dynamics.
So we can’t continue to act with a Holocene mindset of not worrying about the global consequences of our actions. TERRA SAPIENCE means literally, wise Earth. It implies identifying with the earth with our planetary stewardship to the point that it becomes integrated into the way we operate. The bare minimum of being a truly intelligent species means operating in a way that doesn’t threaten our future. We are operating on a planetary scale. So we have to integrate that knowledge into the way we conduct ourselves. That to me is sort of another stage of evolution, that we haven’t quite reached, but that we can talk about, and we can envision. There are encouraging examples: I mentioned the ozone solution. There are also examples from the area of public health, where we’ve achieved enough global cooperation to wipe out some dangerous diseases. So to me, Terra Sapience is achieving the state where it’s second nature to think on a planetary scale in order to thrive over the long term.
GH – Do the current politics of exclusion and intolerance have a place in the good Anthropocene?
DG – Absolutely not. I don’t see how we can achieve a good outcome for our species or for the biosphere without a more inclusive vision of what it means to be human. You can see this playing out in the current refugee crisis being exacerbated by climate change. We can’t focus societal efforts on global solutions if we’re fighting with each other, and reinforcing our borders against people displaced because of climate change. There are just going to be more refugees, and more displaced people, and more conflict. In the long run, these are linked concepts; human justice and environmental justice.
The ‘lungs of the planet’ as the Amazon rain forest is known, is a classic example of how unspoiled nature is seen as both a source and a barrier to economic growth and the source of wealth generation. This article sets out the complicated factors in the battle between the exploiters and the preservers of the Amazon rain forest.
Over the past few decades the international community has watched as the destruction of Earth’s largest forest has intensified. Deforestation has been eating away at the Amazon’s fringes, mainly for commercial cattle ranching and agricultural plantation. The agriculture, livestock, mining and infrastructure sectors have been promoted due to powerful financial and development pressures for high profits and economic growth.
Meanwhile, indigenous peoples, traditional communities and smallholders have had their livelihoods imperilled, while carbon emissions have increased, water quality and quantity have declined, forest fires have increased, and wildlife has been lost.
Brazil’s government is making efforts to stem the drive from wealth-seekers to use the forest for profit but the motivation of private gain is as usual hard to stem in the interests of the public good. In this case, the public good can be seen as the good for all humanity, given the importance of maintaining the health of ‘the planet’s green lung’.
Yet another piece of evidence to add to the mounting flow concerning disruption of long-stable climate patterns that coincided with the Holocene geological period in which human civilisations flourished.:
Unfortunately, our planet’s changing climate is denting permafrosts around the world. And now NASA-funded research has confirmed that the expected gradual thawing of the Arctic permafrost is being dramatically sped up by a natural phenomenon known as thermokarst lakes.
This extract is from an article on the Science Alert website.
Permafrost covers about 24 percent of the exposed land in the Northern Hemisphere. There’s a lot of it. In some areas of the Arctic, the frozen ground is up to 80 metres (260 feet deep).
But despite its name, permafrost is not always permanent. With unusually warm weather, especially further away from the Arctic, it can melt, even on a semi-regular basis; however, deep in the Arctic a lot of it has stayed unmelted for tens of thousands of years – until now. And that’s where the problems start. The Arctic landscape also holds one of the largest natural reservoirs of organic carbon in the world. It’s all locked up in the ice, not causing any trouble at the moment. But when it slowly melts, the soil microbes eat the carbon and produce carbon dioxide and methane, which enters the atmosphere and contributes to global warming. Thermokarst lakes take this process to a whole new level, with permafrost thawing deeper and more quickly – which the researchers call abrupt thawing….
Although thermokarst lakes are currently not included in global climate change models because they’re small and scattered, the team says this new research shows how important it is to include them. Human fossil fuel emissions are still the number one source of greenhouse gas emissions, but these lakes are important to keep an eye on.
This article sets out the current controversy among geologists about the definition of the geological age in which we are living. The Geologic Time Scale is a massive achievement that divides the whole of the Earth’s history into meaningful units of time representing key changes in the Earth system, typically based on new lifeforms appearing in the fossil record. The system splits geological time into ever finer “nested” units: eons being the longest, followed by eras then periods, epochs and finally ages…. two “committees”, some scientists wedded to the Holocene, others backing the acknowledgement of the Anthropocene are in dispute.
The article author challenges the use of ‘epoch’ for the Holocene that is one of 45 inter-glacial phases in the last 2.5 million years. He also criticises the Holocene committee for ignoring the evident huge impact of humans in the last 500 years on both the physical an d life environments of the planet’s surface which the Anthropocene committee favours as the most recent geological epoch.
The article links to two relevant short videos that elaborate differences in the two geological perspectives. From the perspective of this Spaceship Earth website, to ignore the Great Acceleration of human impact on the planet since the 1950s suggests a remarkable oversight of the IGCU Holocene committee on stratigraphy. Humans now move and construct more ‘strata’ than do the natural forces of erosion, not to mention adding larger quantities of CO2 to the atmosphere and creating a hole in the ozone layer!
Guardian Long Read – Timothy Morton Anthropocene philosopher
A new research report referred to in this Guardian article offers in graphic form a catalogue of ten climate change trends and effects that may combine to greatly hasten the heating of Spaceship Earth. Feedback loops are likely to amplify one another leading to effects that will make any efforts to reduce CO2 emissions, of little consequence.,
One of the authors of the Stockholm Resilence Centre research Johann Rockström says there are huge gaps in data and knowledge about how one process might amplify another. Contrary to the Gaia theory, which suggests the Earth has a self-righting tendency, he says the feedbacks could push the planet to a more extreme state. As an example, the authors say the loss of Greenland ice could disrupt the Gulf Stream ocean current, which would raise sea levels and accumulate heat in the Southern Ocean, which would in turn accelerate ice loss from the east Antarctic. Concerns about this possibility were heightened earlier this year by reports that the Gulf Stream was at its weakest level in 1,600 years. Currently, global average temperatures are just over 1C above pre-industrial levels and rising at 0.17C per decade. The Paris climate agreement set actions to keep warming limited to 1.5C-2C by the end of the century, but the authors warn more drastic action may be necessary.
This is the link to the research paper
“Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene” in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS) in the USA.
This review includes the following conclusion:
“Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene” is a powerful and convincing argument for rapid and radical action. Its weaknesses should not distract us from recognizing it as an important contribution that should inform all serious efforts to understand and respond to the global crisis. By firmly placing climate change in the context of the Anthropocene and Earth System Science, it breaks from the dominant view that global warming is a linear process that can be solved by market reforms. Incremental measures like carbon pricing cannot address the systemic problems that are relentlessly driving Earth’s temperature upward.
If an irrevocable trajectory to Hothouse Earth is even possible — and this paper shows that it is — then decisive counter-measures must be at the top of the agenda for everyone who is concerned about humanity’s future.
This long read with rich interactive images, is from 1st August 2018 New York Times on-line. It takes a look at the way climate science in the early 1980s set out the trends that now are having great impact on the earth’s atmosphere and oceans and threatening present and future generations. It details some of the key scientific figures whose work three decades ago created the base for understanding climate change brought about by human action.
Here in a review of the NYT article, Naomi Klein takes issue with the NYT author’s failure to recognise that the 1980s was the decade in which politically supported neo-liberal capitalist values were set in train – the so-called Reagan-Thatcher years, Klein herself has written a major book that presents the argument that the ascendancy of powerful corporate interests, especially fossil fuel corporations, were able to mount a campaign of climate denial at that time. Offering a sliver of hope about the present, Klein sees the appearance of social democratic contenders in US politics as a counterblast to the present earth-wrecking policies of the current administration.
And here a second critical review from Common Dreams that supports the view that neo-liberal policies are the main driver of climate change,